The Right to Repair

A few weeks ago tractor maker John Deere has agreed to give its US customers the right to fix their own equipment.  Previously farmers were only allowed to use authorized parts and service facilities rather than cheaper independent repair options.

Since the bill’s introduction in Nebraska, John Deere and company announced they would sell machine serving software to farmers amid ‘right to repair’ complaints.  This bill provides farmers and independent repair shops with the necessary digital tools to repair agricultural equipment.

Why are we talking about this on Impi’s blog which is largely about sailing around the world?

In September 2020 we hauled Impi in Australia and lifted our Yanmar engines 4JH4AE out for external component overhauls.  Brent as a qualified diesel mechanic did most of the work himself, just using a few tips from our great Yanmar support team at the Boatworks in Coomera.

Through our regular Friday night sun downer sessions with the team, we became aware that maybe it was more profitable for us to put new engines in.  However, there was a snag as any new engines needed to be replaced with common rail engines. Legally, nowadays you cannot resell your boat with new non common rail engines. As your bill of sale mentions the serial number of your engines it would be pretty obvious to any surveyor that they were replaced.

Why the emphasis on common rail engines?

Common rail engines direct fuel injection in a direct fuel injection system around a high pressure fuel rail feeding solenoid valves, as opposed to a low pressure fuel pump feeding unit injectors.

The main advantage of common rail engines is a reduction of exhaust and noise emissions better fuel efficiency and improved overall engine performance.

How do they work?

The system consists of a high-pressure pump, injectors, a rail and an electronic control unit. The term common rail refers to the fact that all of the fuel injectors are supplied by a common fuel rail which is nothing more than a pressure accumulator where the fuel is stored at high pressure.

What does the electronic control unit do?

The electronic control unit controls the pressure in the rail, as well as the start and finish of the signal that activates the injector for each cylinder.  When we started to understand how these engines function it became clear to us that these engines represent a significant danger to circumnavigators making passage through electrical storms as we have often had to do in particular in the Anambas Islands in Indonesia and in Las Perlas in Panama.  Even a side strike could take out electronics and you would end up without engines.

Can you just not buy spare parts and fit them?

When we enquired in Australia if we could buy spare EC boards, we were told that they were not for sale.  However, we received news today via Just Catamarans who recently became Yanmar agents and dealers that in the US these boards can be purchased pre-programmed now.  You would also need to buy a few sensors as part of your back up kit to repair a lightening strike on your engines.

This is great news for circumnavigators and sailors doing extended passages through areas where lightening strikes are frequent.  Thank you Yanmar US!

You can visit Just Catamarans at the Miami boatshow until 19 February.

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